open source by default

White House drafts ‘default to open’ policy for source code

The software development community may soon have access to custom code developed by or for the federal government.

In a March 10 blog post, federal CIO Tony Scott announced a new draft Federal Source Code policy that would require software developed at agencies or created by contractors specifically for government use be made available to share and reuse across agencies.

The policy applies to code developed by government employees as well as that built for federally procured software systems – with the exception of National Security Systems.The move makes good (slightly late) on a pledge from the Second Open Government National Action Plan to put out a federal open source software policy, to "support improved access to custom software code developed for the Federal government." That action plan was released in September 2014.

Scott believes that the policy will save taxpayer funds "by avoiding duplicative custom software purchases and promote innovation and collaboration across Federal agencies." Additionally, releasing software to the public for review and improvement will add stability, reliability and security to the tools powered by the code, Scott said.

The new policy also includes a pilot that would result in "a portion of that new federally funded custom code being released to the public."

According to Scott, the new policy also is in keeping with the government's practice of "technology neutrality" that requires acquisitions and investments to be based on the merits of the proposal. However, it is not inconceivable that some in the vendor community will have contrary views to share on that score during the policy's 30-day comment period.

A longer version of this article originally appeared in FCW, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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